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Northwoods League: Pinson, Christian help fuel Stingers

Right-hander dominates, first baseman homers in 10-2 win over Eau Claire

Baseball roundup
Logan Samuels (35) and the Willmar Stingers bench celebrates as Jakob Christian reaches home after a two-run home run during a Northwoods League game against the Eau Claire Express on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — In his first starting appearance on the mound this season, Smith Pinson went seven innings and dealt six strikeouts.

It helped lead the Willmar Stingers to a 10-2 victory over the Eau Claire Express on Wednesday evening before 800 fans at Bill Taunton Stadium.

Pinson, a freshman right-hander from Kennesaw State University, threw 84 pitches and allowed four hits against 26 batters through seven innings. Three of his four hits allowed came in Eau Claire’s two-run fourth inning.

063022.S.WCT.Stingers base Smith Pinson.JPG
Willmar Stingers pitcher Smith Pinson gets set to throw during a Northwoods League game against the Eau Claire Express on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

“He did a great job of pounding the zone,” Stingers field manager Freddy Smith said of Pinson, who threw 58 strikes. “He was able to hang zeros after we put some runs on the board to help keep our momentum.”

Out of his seven innings, Pinson forced Eau Claire to go three up, three down in four. His changeup caused the Express some issues offensively.

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“That gets used pretty heavily … I lean on it a good bit,” Pinson said. “I definitely felt like we got better as the game went on.”

Pinson’s teammate, Jakob Christian, led the way offensively. The true freshman went 3-for-4 with a scorching two-run home run to left field in the second inning, while adding four RBIs in his seventh game of the season.

Christian, who attends Point Loma Nazarene University, added two RBI singles on his strong night, both going into left field.

“He’s another guy that plays the game the right way,” Smith said of Christian. “He’s always hungry to learn more and he's a guy that’s also very talented like we saw tonight.”

Alongside Christian, Will Hodo tallied his second home run this season in a three-run fifth inning. He hit a two-run home run to help extend the Stingers’ lead to 8-2.

Drey Dirksen, who started the game 0-for-3 with three strikeouts, had two runners in scoring position. He scorched a single to bring home Brett Bateman and Joey Walls, giving the Stingers their largest lead of the night at 10-2 in the sixth.

Bateman wasted no time in building momentum early for the Stingers. The sophomore from the University of Minnesota hit a lead-off double in the game’s first at-bat.

Eventually, Bateman and Walls, who reached on a passed ball, each scored to give Willmar an early 2-0 lead through the first inning.

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Eau Claire’s pair of runs came in the fourth inning. Trevor Haskins hit a two-run home run after Joe Yorke reached second on the team’s second hit of the game.

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Willmar Stingers left fielder Will Hodo snags a liner for an out during a Northwoods League game against the Eau Claire Express on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

The Stingers improve to 17-12 this season and are tied with the Express (17-12) with the fourth-best record in the Northwoods League.

“I think [the game], overall, went great. Not only individually, but as a team,” Christian said. “Everyone was smacking the ball around pretty hard, finding good barrel and different ways to put pressure on the defense and score runs.”

Willmar will host Eau Claire at 7:05 p.m. Thursday in Alexandria to close out their fourth consecutive matchup in as many days against the Express.

063022.S.WCT.Stingers base Joey Walls.JPG
The Willmar Stingers' Joey Walls, left, fist-bumps manager Freddy Smith after scoring a run during a Northwoods League game against the Eau Claire Express on Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at Bill Taunton Stadium in Willmar.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Willmar 10, Eau Claire 2

Eau Claire    000   200   000-2   5   3
Willmar      220   132   00x-10   13   0
Hitting - Eau Claire: Joe Yorke 1-4 r 2b, Trevor Haskins 1-2 r hr rbi, Reed Latimer 1-4, Sam Kuchinski 2-4… Willmar: Brett Bateman 2-5 r-2 2b, Joey Walls 1-3 r-3, Drey Dirksen 1-5 rbi-2, Will Hodo 1-5 r hr rbi-3, Zac Corbin 1-3 2b, Will Safford 2-2 r-3 2b 3b, Jakob Christian 3-4 r hr rbi-4, Jake Entrekin 1-4, Kyle Payne 1-4 3b
Pitching (ip-h-r-er-bb-so) - Eau Claire: Alec Baker (L) 4-6-5-3-2-4, Adam Stanton 1-4-3-1-1-1… Willmar: Smith Pinson (W) 7-4-2-2-1-6, Matt Dreher 2-1-0-0-2-3

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Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in June 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies.

You may reach Michael at mlyne@wctrib.com, or by calling (320) 214-4345.
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